They say the spotlight shines brightest when you’re winning. I think Royals skipper Ned Yost is finding this saying to be all too true. He’s been second guessed two games in a row for decisions that ultimately led to losses. Some of the criticisms are unfair but others, I believe, are spot on. It’s a tough life for a manager, moves that work are praised and then quickly forgotten, while those that don’t are analyzed over and over.
The first decision that prompted outrage was the removal of James Shields after 8 scoreless innings on Monday. You know the story, Shields was cruising having allowed only 2 hits to the punchless White Sox but Yost chose to bring in his closer, Gregg Holland, to finish the game. Holland blew the save and the Royals eventually lost in 11 innings. I actually didn’t have a problem with this move. In his previous 9 appearances, Holland had allowed zero earned runs and struck out 16 in 9 innings. The league hit .156/.206/.219 against him during that time so it was reasonable to expect Holland to come in and pitch and scoreless 9th. Games like these are heart breakers and, spoiler alert, will happen again.
Last night’s decision is harder to defend, so I won’t. With the go ahead runner on base Yost turned to the absolute worst guy to go to, Luke Hochevar. Hoch’s struggles with men on base are well documented so it came as no great surprise when the run scored. He’s been pretty solid lately, and Aaron Crow was being saved for a save situation, so the move made some sense, but it would have made more if Hochevar had started the 8th inning. A manager has to put his players in position to succeed and Yost didn’t do that last night. Since he didn’t learn anything the last time Hochevar let inherited runners score we can only hope he was genuinely paying attention last night.
A move, or rather non-move, getting less publicity is Yost’s decision to not send George Kottaras to the plate in the 9th inning. Instead he trotted out the low OBP trifecta of Jeff Francoeur, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas. Kottaras has come to the plate in a late and close situation six times this year and has drawn a walk in four of them. They needed a baserunner and, small sample size or not, he’s shown an ability to get on base.
The last time Jarrod Dyson started a game he had 2 hits, 2 RBIs and a stolen base. That was April 28th in a 9-0 win against the Indians. In the 8 games since, Jeff Francoeur has put up a .200/.250/.333 line in 32 plate appearances. Dyson has seemingly been typecast as Billy Butler‘s late game pinch runner. He’s good at it, sure, but there’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be starting against right-handed pitching.